Cioppino is perfect for large gatherings as it can be prepared in advance. I make it for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, grownup birthday parties, Super Bowl and Oscars. Give it a try!
The Super Bowl and the Oscars are two events that I look forward to a lot each year. And it’s not only because of the entertainment but also the food. I always prepare a lot of great dishes. My boys love edamame so we start with that, then come guacamole and chips, some cheese and crackers and the most amazing olive mix from Whole Foods. I was told the mix is somewhat seasonal and it consists of green pitted olives, skinned almonds, currants, maybe candied orange peel and some spices. It is sweet with a bit of tang. Probably the best thing from Whole Foods! I also like to make pull apart bread with cheese and garlic as well as sweet and spicy chicken wings.
Cioppino is a dish that originated in San Francisco around 1900s when Italian immigrants who worked as fishermen would add some of their daily catch into the big stew pot to be shared by many. Sometimes they would cook the fish stew while out at the sea. When new restaurants started opening out at the Fishermen’s Wharf, many of them would serve cioppino.
Cioppino is a tomato based seafood stew. The base can be prepared up to 2 days in advance which makes it a perfect party dish. When you are about ready to serve, heat the base up, then add the seafood and cook until shrimp turns pink and shellfish opens up. No seafood should be overcooked since it turns rubbery.
When making cioppino I like to use a combination of seafood, some fatty fish, shrimp, clams or mussels, squid, scallops and crab legs. Fish and squid should be cut into bite size pieces, clams and mussels should be scrubbed clean. If you buy live shellfish, store in the fridge with the plastic bag open and a wet paper towel covering them. Don’t immerse them into a tap water as it will kill them. They should last one day like that.
To make the base start by chopping onions and garlic. Add them into a large Dutch oven or a stew pot with some olive oil, bay leaves, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the onion starts sweating. Then add tomato paste, stir and cook another minute. At that point, pour in the wine, bring it to a boil and cook until it’s reduced by half, about 7 minutes.
Next add tomatoes with their juices, clam juice and chicken broth. Season with salt, pepper, sugar and cinnamon. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes. At that point the base is ready. You can store it (after it cools down) for 2 days in the fridge or add the seafood and serve.
When adding seafood, start with clams or mussels as they need the most time to cook. Cover the pot and simmer the stew for about 10-12 minutes. Most clams and mussels should open up by now. Discard the unopened ones.
Lightly season with salt and pepper the fish fillet, shrimp, squid and scallops. Add to the stew and cook 5-6 minutes until the shrimp turns pink.
If using crab legs, you can either take the meat out of the shell and add it to cioppino or add the whole leg and have the crab lover have fun with it at the table!
At the end, remove the bay leaves, adjust the seasoning and stir in chopped parsley and basil. Serve with bread.
Serves: 8 Prep time: 20 minutes Ready in: 1 hr. 15 minutes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 large garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or less)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1½ cups dry white or red wine
- 1 (32oz) can of San Marzano tomatoes in juice, chopped
- 1 (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes in juice
- 1 cup clam juice
- 1 cup chicken broth (or another cup of clam juice)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1-2 teaspoons salt
- pinch of cinnamon
- 10-12 hard shelled clams, scrubbed
- 10-12 mussels, scrubbed, debearded
- 1 lb firm-flesh fish fillets, like halibut, red snapper, salmon, cut into bite size pieces
- 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
- ½ lb squid, cut into bite size pieces
- ½ lb scallops
- 2-3 crab legs
- 3 tablespoons of both fresh basil and parsley, chopped
- sliced baguette for serving
- Dice onion and slice garlic, then place in a Dutch oven with olive oil. Add bay leaves, red pepper flakes and oregano. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until onion is translucent. Stir in tomato paste and cook another 2 minutes.
- Pour in wine and boil until reduced in half, about 7-8 minutes. Next, add tomatoes with their juices, clam juice, chicken broth if using, salt, pepper, sugar and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 30-40 minutes. Adjust the seasonings. At that point the base is ready to be used.
- Add clean clams and/or mussels and cook for 10-12 minutes. Discard any unopened ones. If using crab legs, add them now or break the shells and take only the meat. Add lightly seasoned with salt and pepper fish pieces, shrimp, scallops and squid pieces as well as the crab meat. Cook until shrimp turns pink.
- Remove bay leaves. Add chopped parsley and basil. Serve at once with sliced baguette.